Amid the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizing the viral zoonotic monkeypox as a ‘global health emergency,’ the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disclosed that two children in the United States have contracted the virus, making them part of the more than 3,000 people infected with monkeypox in the U.S.
The two children, an infant and a toddler, live on opposite coasts of the country and became infected just this past week. While the two cases are unrelated, both appear to be the result of household transmission. The infected toddler lives in California, while the infant was in Washington, D.C., traveling with parents who are not U.S. residents.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky told the Washington Post in an interview that both cases are connected to households with ties to the gay community:
“Both of those children are traced back to individuals who come from the men-who-have-sex-with-men community, the gay men’s community.”
Walensky added that investigations continue in order to understand just how this would have happened since most monkeypox cases occur in men who have sex with men. She did say that both children are in good health despite showing symptoms of the virus, and are receiving antiviral treatments and recovering at home.
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Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC’s deputy director for something called the division of high-consequence pathogens and pathology, said that it is not surprising that a case has emerged in children as the pathogen can affect anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person, and there have been a handful of cases of infection among women and transgender men. But, as Breitbart reports, 99 percent of the 2,891 monkeypox cases in the United States involve men who have sex with men.
While the WHO has declared a global health emergency due to the monkeypox outbreak, the United States has not followed suit. Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said the U.S. is still considering whether and where to declare a public health emergency.
As the Washington Post reports, Monkeypox spreads through close skin-to-skin contact, which — in the case of children — could include holding, cuddling, feeding, as well as through shared items such as towels, bedding, cups, and utensils. Health officials say respiratory spread is also possible, but usually over prolonged periods of time, such as when a person lives in the same home as an infected person.
While public health experts are alarmed at the rapid spread of monkeypox, the CDC has had trouble compiling full demographic data. Fewer than half of the confirmed cases have been identified with gender and age, but among these identified cases, 99 percent involved male-to-male sexual activity. The CDC expects cases to climb through the summer as testing and awareness increase.